Basketball star banned for stand against the anthem
Known for his commentary on international relations and US politics, Rupert Cornwell also contributes obituaries and occasionally even a column for the sports pages. With The Independent since its launch in 1986, he was the paper's first Moscow correspondent - covering the collapse of the Soviet Union – during which time he won two British Press Awards. Previously a foreign correspondent for the Financial Times and Reuters, he has also been a diplomatic correspondent, leader writer and columnist, and has served as Washington bureau editor. In 1983 he published God's Banker, about Roberto Calvi, the Italian banker found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge.
Friday 15 March 1996
Forget Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls' drive to become the first NBA team to win 70 games in a season. Forget Frank Bruno's battle this weekend against Mike Tyson. Forget even the delicious rite of baseball spring training now unfolding in Florida and Arizona. One topic alone consumes America's sportswriters: the basketball star who wouldn't stand for the national anthem.
It is one of the country's more curious rituals, dating back to Second World War baseball games - the audience rising en masse and players stopping motionless before the start of any professional sports event to hear "The Star Spangled Banner". No matter that the anthem, more often than not, is rendered in excruciating awfulness, tradition must be respected - even, it turns out, by Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, guard and leading scorer of the NBA's Denver Nuggets.
For months now, Abdul-Rauf, born 27 years ago as Chris Jackson in the former slave state of Mississippi, has refused to stand for the anthem. At first, the team tried to work out the problem quietly with their $2.5m- a-year star. But then the Denver press noticed, and finally the NBA itself.
At first, he continued to refuse to stand, declaring the US flag was "a symbol of oppression and tyranny", but this week the basketball league suspended him, indefinitely and without pay. The player's agent threatened to countersue, arguing the rule breached First Amendment free speech rights.
Abdul-Rauf converted to Islam in 1991. "You can't be for God and oppression . . ." he said. "Islam is the only way. I don't criticise those who stand, so don't criticise me for sitting."
Last night, however, compromise seemed close. Having missed one game (at a cost of $32,000), the player said that henceforth he would stand but pray at the same time - averting a potential legal battle charged with racial and religious undertones, but not perhaps overdue questioning of the anthem's place in the sports arena.
- 1 Malaysian cyclist could face disciplinary action after 'Save Gaza' gloves protest
- 2 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
- 3 McDonald’s removes chicken nuggets from the menu in Hong Kong amid major food scare
- 4 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
- 5 Satellite full of sexually experimental geckos adrift in space, Russia loses control of mission
Israel-Gaza conflict: Israeli targeting policy under scrutiny after shellfire hits a mother and child, a school full of refugees and a doctor’s home
Iraq crisis: Isis orders Mosul shop keepers to cover mannequins
Comic Con 2014 attendees
Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
McDonald’s removes chicken nuggets from the menu in Hong Kong amid major food scare
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...
Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...
£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...
£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...